With several more weeks of winter to go before the annual spring thaw, why not curl up by the fire (or space heater) with a great book? Thankfully, an array of terrific independent bookstores in the city can help make this pastime a reality for you—and at a fraction of the price charged by their corporately-owned counterparts. Here are seven must-visit independent bookstores in which to scan the shelves for your old (and new) favorites.
The Book Corner
311 N. 20th Street
Run by the Friends of the Free Library (whose main building happens to be just around the corner), the Book Corner is a surprisingly extensive enclave. With a guarantee that no single title is priced above $3, the Book Corner is ideal for the bookworm on a budget. In addition to shelves and shelves of biographies, essays, local interest works, and children’s books, the Book Corner also has a sizable back room stuffed with aisles of fiction titles.
The Book Trader
7 N. 2nd Street
A fixture of Old City for almost 15 years, the Book Trader is unique in its daily hours of operation: 10AM to 10PM seven days a week. Whether you are looking for an escape from the hectic nightspots of Old City or are merely looking for that lone business still welcoming customers after sundown on a Sunday, the Book Trader is the place to be. Its overflowing selection manages to fill two full floors, with comfortable reading chairs scattered throughout. What’s more, it even has something for the audiophile: an ever-growing second-floor record room.
529 Bainbridge Street
Located just off of South Street, Mostly Books is a nice, quiet refuge from the entertainment corridor’s daily sights and sounds. Sure, it has four separate rooms full of reading material just waiting to be discovered, but Mostly Books also is true to its unique name. Curious parties will find everything from DVDs to VHS tapes to even vintage photographs for sale within its walls. It is a true treasure trove for just about any hunter.
Wooden Shoe Books
704 South Street
Wooden Shoe Books has been a staple of the South Street neighborhood since its founding in 1976. The collective is 100% volunteer-run and is currently the city’s sole anarchist bookstore, offering titles and even entire subjects not found at most corporate retailers. In addition, zine aficionados can find several shelves full of local and national zines, pamphlets, and other informational documents, and “the Shoe” regularly plays host to authors, activists, and other anarchists wishing to share their work and experiences with an attentive and enlightened community.
Big Blue Marble Bookstore
551 Carpenter Lane
If you’re looking for a terrific bookstore outside of downtown Philadelphia, take a train or bus out to Mount Airy and pay a visit to the Big Blue Marble Bookstore. With two floors full of books, the quirky store with a friendly and diverse staff is also extremely active in the community. Almost every night of the week, the store holds special events, in addition to its annual reading challenges (which, naturally, also have occasional events in their honor).
The Last Word Bookshop
220 S. 40th Street
Nestled on the busy 40th Street corridor on the western edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus, the Last Word Bookshop is indeed a bibliophile’s paradise. Shelves and shelves overstuffed with books on a wide variety of topics extend far back into the store, and a healthy assortment of fliers for local events can always be found as soon as you enter. And, of course, what bookstore would be complete without its resident cat? Keep an eye out for Lester, a former stray who wanders the aisles in between trips to his food and water bowls.
A House of Our Own
3920 Spruce Street
Most bookstores tend to reside in commercial buildings. A House of Our Own breaks that mold: it is literally inside of an old Victorian house! Books on all subjects are nestled into every nook and cranny of the store, even within the narrow staircase leading to the upper floor! Since its opening in 1971, the friendly reprieve from corporate retailers has been a haven for activist groups and books on all subjects activism are indeed highlighted as soon as you set foot in the doors.